three poems from Mothershell by Andrea Potos (+ a giveaway!)


Andrea Potos’s ninth poetry collection opens with this John Keats epigraph:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

~ Endymion

It is true that the beauty in this world sustains us. Even after physical manifestation or terrestrial existence has ceased, the idea, essence, soul of the person or thing endures.

When a loved one passes away, he or she truly remains “forever in our hearts.”

Judging by the poems in Mothershell (Kelsay Books, 2019), Andrea’s late mother embodied a rare brand of temporal as well as spiritual beauty. Though beauty is always in her line of sight (as it is with most poets), when it is viewed through the lens of personal loss and grief, it acquires tender and poignant facets as it becomes an agent of solace and healing.

Sorrow heightens perception as emotional guard rails fall away. When we mourn, we are blessed with divine clarity.

In these exquisitely crafted poems, Andrea honors her beloved mother by distilling memories that emerge like scattered shells on a beach: “I hold them up/to my ears. On certain days/inside their silence I can hear/the echoes of your voice.”

We get an intimate sense of her mother’s  loveliness and presence through color, light, sensation, sound, image, impression — beautifully sculpted moments that transport us to the center of love and longing: “These pink lilies rising from clear stillness,/ these yellow butterflies stitching a path through daylilies and reeds,” “a fragrance beyond air/a whole melding of the lost rooms of my mother’s house, vanilla scent of her coffee, her Greek oregano, cinnamon just past its freshness but potent enough to be here,” “tranquil joy/on her face like/Renoir/might have painted,/light dappling around and through her.”

Andrea also writes about her other loves — art (Renoir, Cassatt), literature (Dickinson, Alcott), faraway places (Ireland, Italy), her daughter and grandmother — all of which informs and enriches her poetic vision.

I love how she illuminates the eternal bond between mother and daughter with her elegant flashes of beauty:



In the dusky sky before dreaming,
behind the cobalt
curtain of your eyelids as
you descend

or rise —
on that landing just before waking–
precipice of expression — her face
like goldleaf shining.




one year later

Through the marrow
of summer
she was gone
through the hollow
of light
she moved
into the bone-
core of our longing,
now everywhere
peonies bloom
the colors of
her coral blouse
scattered with tiny
daylight stars.



Oh, the beautiful anguish (“the bone-core of our longing” kills me . . . )!

With Mothershell, Andrea has created “a bower quiet for us,” a place both prayerful and powerful in its emotional scope.

Here are three more of my favorite poems from the book:




Continue reading

Chatting with Andrea Potos about Arrows of Light

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.” ~ John Keats (Endymion, 1818)

Andrea at the Promega Employee Art Fair (Madison, Wisconsin, 2018)


The first poem in Andrea Potos’s chapbook Arrows of Light begins like this:

The lake is a blue scarf ironed
by stillness, locust leaves burnt
yellow, everywhere, softness
in September air.

Her exquisite metaphor took my breath away as I envisioned the tranquil autumn scene. Potos next quotes Keats:

The first thing that strikes me on hearing
a misfortune having befalled another is:
Well it cannot be helped — he will have
the pleasure of trying the resources of his spirit

Miles away, Andrea’s mother is undergoing cancer radiation treatment. The doctor “will aim one perfect arrow of light in the errant spot that would claim her if it had its way . . . ”


This poignant opening poem, “Morning of My 56th Birthday,” sets the stage for 25 other luminous and poignant ruminations about beauty, light, loss and grief. With her mother’s decline, each precious moment is amplified, bringing intense clarity and love.

Even as Andrea grieves, she celebrates life. Light and dark, joy and sorrow, flip sides of the same coin. She juxtaposes these two elements with extended metaphors of blue and gold: the blues of lake, sea, twilight, flowers, sadness; the golds of autumn, sunlight, Van Gogh, and radiant childhood memories.

“Grief, he told her, is the exhale of love (the ache of breathing) . . . “

Continue reading

poetry friday (breakfast edition) is here!

I think, to a poet, the human community is like the community of birds to a bird, singing to each other. Love is one of the reasons we are singing to one another, love of language itself, love of sound, love of singing itself, and love of the other birds. (Sharon Olds)

dum dee dum

Good Morning, Good Morning!

Breakfast is Served.

Welcome to Poetry Friday at Alphabet Soup!

Please help yourself to some freshly brewed Kona coffee and a warm blueberry scone. Since you’ll be dashing from blog to blog today to savor all the poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere, you’ll need a magic footed coffee cup.

Honestly, what would writers do without their favorite high octane java and choice of sweet? It’s no small coincidence that so many bestsellers are written in coffee shops. Sip, chew, type. Ponder, swallow, savor. A bite of inspiration for the taking.

To the Coffee Shop
by Andrea Potos

Praise to the early risers who unlock
the doors at 4 a.m., create
lemon blueberry crumble,
orange raisin scones dunked
headfirst in sugar,
oatmeal cookies stuffed
with cranberries and pecans.
Praise to the splash and sizzle
on the grill, smells rising
from childhood’s deep cache,
when you entered the kitchen rubbing your eyes
and your father kissed you
over the top of his Times,
and your big sister looked ridiculous
with her milk mustache.
Your mother turned to greet you
as if you alone were the sun
while eggs burbled in her pan —
praise to the succulent yellow yolks
that were not yet broken.

~ from Yaya’s Cloth (Iris Press, 2007). Used with author’s permission, copyright © Andrea Potos. All rights reserved.

Andrea: I am a devotee of coffee shops, and that’s often where I go to write every morning. (I love sweets, and I love all things baked!) As a child, my favorite breakfast was eggs sunny-side up and toast; there was always something cozy and consoling about such a meal, no matter what else was swirling around me.


As you can see, Andrea is my kind of poet! I thank her for allowing me to share her delicious poem with you today. Love “childhood’s deep cache.” *swoon*

Mr. Linky is hot!

Now, please leave your links with Mr. Linky, who’s already had three scones and five cups of coffee (please resist any temptation to actually eat Mr. Linky for breakfast as we need him to help with the Roundup). Don’t forget to enter your name with the title of the poem you’re sharing or book you’re reviewing in parentheses.

So glad you’re joining us — help yourself to another scone before you take off. Don’t worry, your magic coffee cup will follow you wherever you go and refill itself.




Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup Menu

1. Tara (Natasha Trethewey)

2. Charles Ghigna (“Each Shadow Has Its Sunshine”/”Sunset”)

3. Laura Shovan (Shakespeare Under the Stars)

4. NC Teacher Stuff (Poem Runs)

5. Gathering Books (Ted Hughes’ “Wodwo”)

6. Diane Mayr (Poems about poems)

7. Kurious Kitty (Switching On the Moon)

8. KK’s Kwotes (Roger McGough)

9. The Write Sisters (Poems about fishermen)

10. Joyce Ray (The Good Braider)

11. Fanny Harville (Railroad Rhythms)

12. Violet (The Tarts — and what really happened)

13. Amy LV at the Poem Farm (“Sky Tickle”)

14. Linda Baie (Gratitude)

15. Tabatha (Doug Florian: “Summer Hummer”)

16. Renee at No Water River (“The Bitter Snits”)

17. Liz Steinglass (Summer Day)

18. Mary Lee (“Directions”)

19. Laura Salas (What’s Looking at You, Kid)

20. Laura Salas (15 Words or Less)

21. Jone at Check it Out (William Butler Yeats)

22. Debbie Diller (“Up-Hill”)

23. BookTalking (One Two That’s My Shoe!)

24. Dori Reads (A Faun and other simple beauty)

25. Steven Withrow (“A Conch Shell”)

26. Ruth (“A Hot Day” by Tessimond)

27. Sally at Paper Tigers (Earth Magic)

28. david e. at Fomagrams (raygone, the transit of venus)

29. Jeannine Atkins (Natasha Trethewey)

30. Karen Edmisten (Jane Kenyon)

31. Little Willow (“Farther in Summer Than the Birds”)

32. Elaine at Wild Rose Reader (“Rooster”)

33. Florian Cafe (“Honey”)

34. Julie Larios at The Drift Record (Dylan Thomas)

35. Janet Squires (River of Words)

36. Donna at Mainely Write (summer haiku)

37. Sylvia Vardell (2012 White Ravens Poetry List)

38. readertotz (Elmo and Adam Sandler)

39. Rena Traxel (50th Anniversary poem)


doodle ee doo

What’s this? Mr. Cornelius wants you to have a Triple Chocolate Rockie. If you stick around, he’ll let you drink from his cup.


♥ Happy Poetry Friday and Congratulations to Natasha Trethewey, our new Poet Laureate! ♥


Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.